Interview: NFL Analyst, Michael Robinson, Keeps It Realer Than Most When It Comes To Life And Football

Before you get your playoff parties all set and start to rep your favorite team in the playoff run this weekend, NFL Network's very own analyst, Michael Robinson, has some football knowledge to drop.

The 2015-16 NFL season is sadly nearing its end, but it's getting down to the nitty gritty part of the season where playoffs are soon underway. As the best of the best gear up for their intentions to head to Santa Clara for the golden showdown of Super Bowl 50, it all can’t go down without the expertise of an NFL analyst. And who better to talk to than a Super Bowl champion himself? Former Seattle Seahawks fullback turned NFL analyst, Michael Robinson, is dishing on all that is football from his perspective, of course.

But it’s not all fun and football games for Robinson. The Penn State alumnus is surely all about his business and knows that there’s more to life than just the game. After turning in his cleats for a suit and a spot on the NFL Network, Robinson gets realer than real on what he hopes other football players hope to gain outside of the sport that they love.

Here, he chats it up with VIBE on the importance of possessing a backup plan, what he has learned from his career experiences, and some of his boldest predictions on what ‘s possible to come on the unpredictable road to Levi’s Stadium for the biggest day in American sports. So before you dig your jerseys out of your closets and invite your friends over for a playoff party this weekend, check out Michael Robinson’s take on everything that is football from both on and off the field.


VIBE: With it being an early offseason for many teams who didn’t quite make the playoff picture this season, a lot of those same teams have been hit with the injury bug to their biggest stars. What would be some tips that you would suggest for those who’ve been injured to get through rehabbing, the comeback stages and getting back into the groove of working out at a high level once again?
Michael Robinson: Most often times people tend to think that: “Oh, I just had a long season. I’m sore. I’m tired. And I know that I don’t have a game next week so I’m going to take some time to relax, I’m going to get some rest.” There is some value to that, but in actuality for football players and other high performance athletes, movement is key to you. You don’t want to be just sitting around. So I tell guys who come off of a long season, especially if you’ve had some injuries or whatever to not just shut it down because you’re not playing for anything next week. Still continue to work, still continue to get some movement. You might not be going in there hitting it like you’re getting your body to play for Sunday but you still need the movement. You still need to get your body going. A lot of young guys don’t understand that, they think they can sit around and drink and party or whatever and just let loose. And sometimes in some of those things are not good and not conducive for healing.

With football being such a heavy impact sport and under a constant microscopic lens for various safety concerns, there are many pros and cons to playing in the league. What do you believe are the biggest risks and rewards for being a professional within the NFL?
Well obviously the risks from a physical standpoint like concussions or getting hurt and the rewards with being able to financially carry yourself, carry your family. I will dig a little deeper that our game, culturally, is sending the wrong message to the young, black or the young minorities. Often times in our communities that we’re told that the only way out is to be a professional athlete, a rapper, or something like that, so you see these kids spend their entire life preparing for the National Football League when you have a better chance at winning the lotto but yet you spend your entire life preparing to play in the National Football League. You’re working out and you’re doing all of these things, but nobody prepares you to have sustainable skills once your playing days are over. And that’s whether you’re lucky enough to play in the National Football League or whether you’re lucky enough to play on the collegiate level. It can require so many resources and so much time to get to the league to be a pro to stay there and maintain. I tell guys all the time, when you get there, when you’re drafted and you’re on the team, work like hell to find something else that you love because the stopwatch literally has started. I spent eight years in the National Football League, I’ve been to the Pro Bowl, I’ve been to the Super Bowl, I’ve been a Super Bowl champion and I’m only 32 years old so now what? And I don’t think that many young kids understand that. You have to have some type of sustainable skills. Even if you do make it to the highest level and even if you do make some money, the money will run out. What’s going to keep you going forward?

"They still don’t know the value of a dollar. They don’t know how to work the dollar. They don’t teach us that in school. In our communities, they don’t teach that and half of our parents don’t understand it so you have to have a plan and take responsibility for your life." —Michael R.


You experienced a career-threatening health scare that resulted in a shutdown of your kidney and liver in addition to a significant amount of weight loss towards the end of your playing career. Talk about how that situation put matters into perspective for you from a personal and professional standpoint.
I’m always about succeeding in life. I always see things in the bigger picture so not necessarily making decisions for just being good in football, I don’t make decisions to just be good in broadcasting. I make decisions to be successful in life. When my kidney and liver shut down because of the prescription medicine that I had gotten from the team, I was sad and I was messed up because I wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t ready for it. As soon as I got released, I started calling up my contract for networks because I didn’t think I was going to play football again. I thought it was a wrap. I have four kids and a wife so I don’t have time to sit around and sulk about being cut. And again, we’re always going to be cut before we know it. Before we even know that we’re going to get cut. So we’re always going to be done before we physically are. And my whole thing was just because I got cut doesn’t mean that it is the end of the world. That doesn’t define me. My thing is about being successful in life so what it was all about what’s next and the next thing that took me was broadcasting so I started there. Yeah, I got a call to be back on the team but it laid the foundation for where I am now for what I can do for the next 30 years.

Many NFL players enter the league without much thought put into what comes after their playing days are over. You, on the other hand, were prepared from the start by receiving two degrees from Penn State University. Based on your own path by going straight from retirement to transitioning over to being an analyst, how important is it to you to have a backup plan?
It’s huge. That’s the reason why I went to Penn State, as you mentioned, where I got both of my degrees in public relations and broadcast journalism. That’s why I went there to, again, be successful in life. I went to Penn State where they had a great football program, I had a great coach. Yeah, I made it to the National Football League on the football side. But I also looked at how roughly 1,200 of graduates from Penn State are the biggest alumni network in the world. So when you think about higher education and being successful in life and not just being successful in the football world, I couldn’t turn that down. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to have a rolodex of alumni from all over to be able to help me get out because again, I want to be successful in life. I’m thinking about the next 30, 40, 50 years of my life, so I think it’s very, very important that guys have something else that they love. When you make football your life, eventually that’ll be over and when you make football your life and that’s over then that doesn’t mean that your life is over. I think it goes back to that deep-rooted cultural factor that parents push their kids so hard as their only way out and in a way, it sets them up for failure in the event that if they don’t make it to the National Football League because these kids aren’t thinking about anything else, they aren’t setting up a backup plan.

I’m thinking about education because they still don’t know the value of a dollar, they don’t know how to work the dollar. They don’t teach us that in school. In our communities, they don’t teach that and half of our parents don’t understand it so you have to have a plan and take responsibility for your life. My foundation, Excel 2 Excellence, we teach kids in our mentorship program and we teach them to take control of their lives so they don’t look back to say what teacher held them back or say that they wish they would’ve did this, they wish they would’ve done that. When I first got to the National Football League in 2006, I went to a club in San Francisco. I was about to go in there to party or whatever. First of all, I was standing in a line and I couldn’t believe it because I’m like: ‘I’m a pro football player. Why am I standing in line?’ I get in there and I notice all the tables, all the VIP and it wasn’t any football players, it wasn’t any basketball players, it wasn’t any Warriors or anything like that. I saw people in there that could be doing their job for 40 years. Right then and there in the middle of that club in 2006, I said: ‘Woah! I have to make sure that I’m setting myself up to be doing something like that!’ This football thing is not sustainable. No way I can do that for the rest of my life. So that gives a little context.

Two years after ending your playing career on a high note to win Super Bowl XLVIII with Seattle, the Seahawks are back into playoff contention after a shaky start to the season. Do you see your former team making their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance this year especially with the caliber of Russell Wilson’s play throughout this season?
It definitely can happen. They’ve gotten hot at the right time. Russell Wilson has matured into a superstar quarterback who is carrying the league up out of a pocket and that is amazing. It’s hundreds of thousands of kids, I run a little league football team in Richmond, Virginia, and there’s hundreds of thousands of kids who need a guy like Russell Wilson or they need a guy like Cam Newton to continue to light the league up. I honestly think they have a great chance at getting back by them getting hot at the right time. They’re playing the kind of football that’s scary around this time but I don’t see a team in the league this year, the AFC and the NFC, that doesn’t have their flaws. The Seahawks definitely have their flaws. Any team can lose on any given day in the National Football League.

Bold prediction time. Who do you think is going to make it out of the AFC and who’s going to make it out of the NFC?
I can’t even lie to you. At the beginning of the season, my Super Bowl predictions were Indianapolis and Seattle. You know what happened to Indy, they’re just not even anywhere near being in the playoffs. There just honestly isn’t enough information to give my prediction right now. I watch a lot of film and there just isn’t information available to make that educated guess right now. But I will tell you one thing. Seattle, Carolina, Arizona; they play a brand of football that can get them to the Super Bowl. New England, Denver plays the brand of football that can get them to the Super Bowl on the AFC side.

For some, the MVP race might be a tight one. Others believe that Carolina Panthers quarterback, Cam Newton, is the clear cut winner this season. Who’s your choice of who’s walking away the Most Valuable Player along with two possible runner ups?
If it’s not Cam Newton then the award is a sham. I know people have Tom Brady or people have Carson Palmer—and Carson Palmer is possibly playing the quarterback position better than anybody in the league right now including Russell Wilson. But in August, if you had asked me and said, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and Carson Palmer, do you think that they would be in the MVP race? I would say yeah, that they would be. If you would have told me Cam Newton with the loss of his number one wide receiver, with one of his cornerbacks going up to Pittsburgh, with DeAngelo Williams not being here anymore. The style of football in which they play and you would’ve told me that Cam would be in the MVP race, I would’ve said: ‘Not a way in hell!’ In that statement alone lets me know that Cam Newton is winning MVP. He means that much to that team.

Black Monday has come and gone this week, where teams like the Eagles, 49’ers, and recently the most notable with Tom Coughlin wrapping up his 12-year tenure with the New York Giants, will be starting over with a new coach next season. It might be too early to tell, but out of all of the current coach-less teams, which do you think will have an easier time bouncing back to get back on the winning track?
The New York Giants. They have a quarterback that’s 70% of their battle and Eli has at least five or six years left of football left in his body. Then you have to look at ownership. The Mara’s and the New York Giant owners are patient, they’re a patient group. They’re not like these new owners who only give coaches a few games to turn it around. The Mara’s are patient, they’re from the old school like the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Rooney's. They don’t overreact to two or three bad seasons because they have a structure where the head coach has input on the players and on the scouting and they already have a structure firmly in place. From a marketing standpoint, to being able to make money from a coach standpoint, the New York market is very attractive and then you’re playing in a very weak division of the NFC East. So there’s a lot of fluff that goes into it.

The 2016 Pro Bowl is right around the corner. What are you looking forward to the most from this year’s festivities?
It all depends. How do they have Odell Beckham and Josh Norman on the same team? Like how does that go? With them being on the same team, with them being in practice together, how does that go? I do know that there was some crazy things said out there on the field that will probably be said again. I just think that whole situation will be explosive. Not going to necessarily say that I’m looking forward to it, but it’ll be definitely something that I’ll be paying attention to.

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P Diddy promotes his new Diddy Dirty Money single 'Coming Home' and his headphones DiddyBeats at HMV, Oxford Street on January 20, 2011 in London, England.
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'The Last Train To Paris' Turns 10: Revisit Diddy's Aug./Sept. 2010 VIBE Cover Story

YOU EVER WATCH a control freak mellow out? It’s fascinating. When said micromanager is Sean “Puffy” Combs, it’s an enlightening ordeal altogether. Sitting at trendy Asian eatery Philippe Chow in New York City, two days before LeBron James announces that he’s taking his show to South Beach, Combs has talking points: impact and legacy. “This ain’t a regular run,” says Combs of his two-decade laundry list of accomplishments. “I’m saying that in the most humble way possible. I’m me and I’m seeing it. Most times the impact of what you do you don’t even live to see it.”

He’s the only patron seated for the evening, lounging at a table that comfortably seats eight. This is clearly a Sean John zone. His voice remains even, but the arrogance skyrockets. “It trickles over into sports. It goes into the way the free agent negotiations are going. [Athletes] have that belief. But that level of confidence as Black businessmen wasn’t really there. Unforgivable swagger. That shit wasn’t there.”

Translation: Sean believes that his ambition has been infectious. In his “humble” opinion, his drive has taught the have-nots that not only can they have, but they can be gluttonous and acquire wealth rather than riches. Will it ruin his day if people don’t agree? Not really. But he’d still like the legacy to be accurately documented. His reactionary reflexes have given way to him thinking long term, which could be why he’s unfazed by trivial shots like 50 Cent’s claims of having nude pictures of his artist Cassie. He’s more interested in guiding careers—Rick Ross, Red Cafe and Dirty Money, among them. And really, he’d like to do square biz and have your kids’ kids respect him like his contemporaries admire Warren Buffet. That would truly be money in the bank. In the meantime, he wants to mellow with a plate of chicken satay and talk Diddy legacy.

VIBE: You have said that rap’s heavyweight class consisted of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Drake. Do you still believe that?

Diddy: Definitely. I feel like Drake is somebody that entered professionally in the heavyweight division. He didn’t come in as a middleweight, he didn’t come in as a light heavyweight, he came in as a heavyweight. He’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with for a while. He is the definition of a new age musical rapper . . . going forward a lot of rap artists are going to have [singing and rapping] in their repertoire.

What’s the ranking in that heavyweight division?

Jay, Kanye, Wayne, and Drake.

Jay still No. 1?

Hands down as far as worldwide impact and due to this last album [The Blueprint 3]. He’s moved up in the rankings.

People don’t realize that you two are friends and not just industry acquaintances.

Over the years as we’ve grown, Jay and I have needed each other. We’ve needed to be able to pick up the phone and call somebody that can understand what each other was going through. We needed each other to motivate each other; we needed each other to push each other. We needed each other to support each other and also to challenge each other. He’s definitely been a great friend to me. There’s never been anything that I’ve asked him to do or he’s asked me to do that we really haven’t done for each other.

Give an example of when you had to pick up the phone and call Jay for assistance.

I wanted to do something game-changing with Sean John. And I just picked his brain. I did [a fashion line] before him but I think that business-wise he did a lot of things better than me. He picked the right time to get out and get his check, to sell his company. We sat on the phone and talked about itŃput our egos in our pockets. I didn’t see Sean John versus Roc-A-Wear. I just saw that my man over here is doing it [and I had] a couple of offers for Sean John. It was a beautiful conversation, ‘cause we’re sitting down at this restaurant and we’re talking about apparel. We’re not talking about music. It was a beautiful moment. Two quarter-of-a-billion dollar companies—just getting advice from your competitor. It was something that you heard rich White boys do.

Dr. Dre said that the last beat that floored him was “All About the Benjamins.” How does that make you feel?

It’s humbling. I was in the studio with Dre the other day. He started working on a record for me. Watching him as a producer is watching greatness. We had a lot of similar traits. It was like looking in the mirror. He would ask questions like, “How you feel about this?” People don’t really understand true producers want to know how you feel about things. We are some of the most observant people on the planet.

You’re a lot more into the music now than the last time we spoke.

I was waiting to get a lot of inspiration from the outside and it just wasn’t coming. And I’m not knocking anyone’s hustle that’s out there. I just come from musical history that musically people gave more of themselves . . . I was able to go back and listen to all the great records that I made. I ain’t do it on purpose. Like sometimes I’d be in a club and the DJ was just throwing tributes and would go deep in the crates. I would be like, “Damn, I forgot that I made that one.” It just gave me a deep connection and another level of confidence for me to do me.

Are you feeling more comfortable writing on your own?

Yeah. I learned a lot more. I feel a lot more confident and free. On this album, I wrote like maybe two or three records by myself. But I still like writing with somebody. It helps me. Not using it as a crutch, but I get better results from co-writing; having my own feelings and thoughts, and, you know, getting some help with it. I love the feeling of collaboration, community in the studio. I don’t like being the mad scientist and being in the room by myself.

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Desus & Mero Bless A Bronx Bodega With A Year's Worth of Rent

You know them as the hosts of the hit Showtime series Desus & Mero, aka "the greatest show in late-night history, featuring only illustrious guests." These days you might catch them chatting with President Obama, but  Bronx natives Desus Nice and The Kid Mero have never lost touch with their roots as the Bodega Boys.

"On our first podcast me and Mero used to have to ride the train back afterward," recalls Desus. "And basically our conversation on the train sounded exactly like the podcast. And somebody was like, 'Yo, they sound like two guys you hear in the bodega.' Which was true, because when you hear guys in the bodega, they talk very passionately about things. They may not have all the facts, but they're talking with their hearts."

"Their confidence is strong!" adds Mero with a laugh.

"That's just us," says Desus. "We're raised in bodegas. Probably 90 percent of the food we grew up eating was either our mother's cooking or chopped cheese sandwiches."

"Facts," Mero confirms.

Ever since the pandemic hit, New York City's community bodegas have served as a lifeline by providing New Yorkers with daily necessities, especially in neighborhoods where door-to-door gourmet food delivery is not an option. But staying open hasn't been easy—the daily risks of doing business under threat from a deadly virus—not to mention a spike in robberies and violence—has made running a bodega very challenging, to say the least. But day in day out, in good times and bad, they find a way to keep their doors open.

"If your block is the solar system, the bodega is the sun," says Mero. "The hood orbits the bodega."

So when the makers of Pepsi cola decided to give back on the bodega owners who provide life-giving sustenance and ice-cold soda to NYC's five boroughs, they reached out to the Bodega Boys as their official goodwill ambassadors. Today Desus & Mero appear in a short film called The Bodega Giveback, which highlights the way one Bronx bodega overcame extreme hardship—and the way Pepsi is helping them keep going after 2020 comes to an end.

For Juan Valerio and his son Jefferson, the proprietors of JJN Corp Deli & Grocery in the Bronx, 2020 has been a horrible year. Juan still remembers when he came to America with his father in 1990. "To buy a bodega at that time was well over $100,000," Juan recalls in the short film, which you can watch above. "It was a dream that seemed unreachable. I never thought I would achieve it. And now this is what I do. My whole life is here."

Then in April 2020, tragedy struck when Juan's father lost his life to COVID 19. For the first time in three decades, the bodega had to close its doors down briefly. "It’s something very powerful to lose what you love the most in a split second," Juan recalls with emotion as his son comforts him with a hug. "Life goes on. And I decided to come back because he always taught me to work. To stay closed was disrespectful to him."

"He had to shut down for a little bit," says Desus. "But then he reopened cause the community needed him. Cause the lockdown a lot of stores closed down. And in the Bronx, you can't really get stuff delivered. And he's the hub. We heard stories of what he did, so we were like, how can we give back to him? Shout out to Pepsi with the Bodega Giveback. And just giving him a year's rent—that's the most amazing thing you can give a bodega owner. Shout out to Juan and his son. The look on their face when they really get it—you see the appreciation."

"It really hit home," said Mero. "Cause it's like, we're children of immigrants. So that could have been us—if we didn't get seen by the right people and put in the right positions, we coulda been workin' alongside our dad at a bodega. And then watchin' your grandfather pass away and then comin' back because you know how important you are to the community. Like, that's really selfless. It's just a dope story. And those stories occur all over the place, it's just people don't see them. Cause they don't get exposed on a national level. But a brand like Pepsi can put that on a national stage and be like,  "Yo, look—this is a mom and pop establishment for real. And these are the small businesses that you supposed to be supporting."

The release of The Bodega Giveback kicks off a larger holiday giveback from Pepsi this season that includes cash gifts to bodega owners and consumers across NYC's five boroughs.  “Pepsi has so many longstanding bodega partners in New York City,” said Umi Patel, CMO of North Division, PepsiCo Beverages North America. “They are not only pillars of the community, but they have gone above and beyond to take care of their loyal customers during the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have worked around the clock to stay open, filling shelves to ensure their customers, friends, and family have the essentials they need to stay home and stay safe. They have even shifted their businesses to meet the needs of the community, offering new delivery options, adding crucial items like masks and gloves, and more, all while dealing with their own personal challenges of the pandemic. We are proud to do our part in giving back to these unsung heroes.”

From now until December 20, Pepsi will also be surprising customers at local bodegas across the five boroughs by gifting pre-paid credit cards of up to $100.00 per customer.

As Juan says in the film, "one hand washes the other, and with both, we wash our face."

Check out our full convo with Desus & Mero above and the short film, The Bodega Giveback.

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Level Announces Their 'Best Man 2020 Awards' Featuring Entertainment Elite to Everyday Kings

It is a hard feat for media brands to survive the content landscape these days. To pull off the incredible undertaking of informing an audience as a new publication in the digital space is damn near impossible, yet the team at Medium's Level has done just that. To celebrate making their mark as a one-stop information shop for black men with their one-year anniversary this week, the team of bright and witty editors has launched their first annual Best Man Awards 2020.

The plan to honor the brand that started in December of 2019, focused on the interests of African-American males, has expanded into encompassing the efforts of a few good men during this mess of a year that is 2020. In doing so, those that broke through barriers of personal pain, new business frontiers, and support of others are highlighted and given the rightful pedestals to gain well-deserved props.

Of the 12 awards, esteemed gents like Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, and D-Nice are saluted as Quarantine Kings for their Verzuz and Club Quarantine (respectively) social media music creations that entertained the masses during the dogged days of our universal shut-down. There is also a heroic soul of a man who protected a black woman and her family from the surrounding presence of racist neighbors on his own time and dime. They have an award for Father of the Year, where former NBA all-star and champion, Dwyane Wade shines as a glowing example of understanding and ushering in new ways of parenting in today's society.

With the awards being a noble move towards giving Black men some much-needed praise in 2020, Level made sure to round up the last 365 days with themes on "The State of Black and Brown Men" as well. Essays that cover the realms of political ideology, coping with covid among Blacks health care workers,  how Black men fell short of protecting Black women, and exploring what Black men see when they look in the mirror (a piece that is a user-generated content driver/audience-led convo). All hard topics that need to be detailed, yet are rarely in a space for deep-dive convo.

Helmed by former VIBE editor-in-chief, Jermaine Hall, Level's editors explain their thoughts on the special coverage and celebration of their one year old brand:

“With the Best Man Awards, we wanted to lean into people who are doing incredible things to support society and publicly thank them. Anthony Herron, Jr is a hero. He stepped up to protect someone he didn’t know because, as he saw it, harassment is unacceptable. LEVEL wanted to make sure he received a nod for his heroics. But there are also several celebrities who are doing things outside of their jobs. D-Nice, Swizz, and Timbaland helped us cope through music. And it wasn’t a paid gig for any of them. They responded because people needed help healing so they provided care. That’s a strong attribute of the LEVEL man. It’s certainly is the definition of men being their best selves."

Click here to read about these individuals and learn more about the Best Man Awards 2020. Excelsior to Level.


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